Walt, Karon and Leveretts say ‘alarmist’ Goldberg Iran piece promotes Israeli objectives

Israel/Palestine
on 19 Comments

I still haven’t read the Jeff Goldberg piece in the Atlantic (I need time and space to do the St. Vitus dance that will inevitably follow) but cooler heads have– Tony Karon at rootless cosmopolitan, and Stephen Walt and Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett at Foreign Policy– and all these writers concur that the Goldberg is an argument for war and that it’s a war with a strong Israel interest. I find it amazing that such an Israelcentric argument can be put forward in establishment debate after a, Goldberg helped lead us into the Iraq war on a dubious basis without suffering much diminution of influence, and b, Goldberg himself admitted last year on Israeli television that when it came to Iran, Israeli interests and U.S. interests diverge, and Jews will feel torn. 

Here are excerpts from the three writers emphasizing the Israelcentric aspect of Goldberg’s argument. Karon says that "former IDF Corporal Jeffrey Goldberg" wrote an "alarmist screed" at the behest of his Israeli sources:

why call in Goldberg? Well, quite simply, because Goldberg is one of the most influential opinion-makers among hawkish Israel backers in the Democratic Party camp. Such are his pro-Israel hawk credentials that if Goldberg can be convinced, there’s a chance you can convince the likes of Lester Crown. Not that Rahm succeeded, of course; that’s why Goldberg is pushing the line that Israel is going to do something crazy early next year.

Walt also says the piece serves an "alarmist" agenda:


a central purpose of this article is to mainstream the idea that an attack on Iran is likely to happen and savvy people-in-the-know should start getting accustomed to the idea.  In other words, a preemptive strike on Iran should be seen not as a remote or far-fetched possibility, but rather as something that is just "business-as-usual" in the Middle East strategic environment. If you talk about going to war often enough and for long enough, people get used to the idea and some will even begin to think if it is bound to happen sooner or later, than "’twere better to be done quickly." In an inside-the-Beltway culture where being "tough" is especially prized, it is easy for those who oppose "decisive" action to get worn down and marginalized.  If war with Iran comes to be seen as a "default" condition, then it will be increasingly difficult for cooler heads (including President Obama himself) to say no.

You’ll recall that a similar process of "mainstreaming" occurred over Iraq: What at first seemed like the far-fetched dream of a handful of out-of-power neoconservatives in 1998 had become a serious option by 2001. By 2003, aided in no small part by the efforts of journalists such as Goldberg, the idea had been embraced by liberals and others who should have known better.  

Then Walt quotes his and John Mearsheimer’s book, The Israel Lobby, to identify the sources of Goldberg’s thinking:

If the United States does launch an attack, it will be doing so in part on Israel’s behalf, and the lobby will bear significant responsibility for having pushed this dangerous policy."

Now the Leveretts. Goldberg is offering "the neoconservative case for attacking Iran," they write here. And at FP, one of their themes is the Israelcentricness of Goldberg’s  argument.

Goldberg’s reporting also reveals that the case for attacking Iran — especially for America to attack so Israel won’t — is even flimsier than the case Goldberg helped make for invading Iraq in 2002, in a New Yorker article alleging that "the relationship between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaeda is far closer than previously thought." Goldberg’s case for war on Iran starts with the Holocaust — and a view of the Islamic Republic as a latter-day Third Reich, under ideologically obsessed, anti-Semitic leadership to which "rational deterrence theory … might not apply."…

Goldberg’s reporting on his conversations with Israeli generals, national-security policymakers, and politicians makes clear that, in fact, those at the top of Israel’s political order understand Iran’s nuclear program is not an "existential threat." His interlocutors recognize Iran is unlikely to invite its own destruction by attacking Israel directly. Rather, they say, a nuclear Iran "will progressively undermine [Israel's] ability to retain its most creative and productive citizens," according to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

"The real threat to Zionism is the dilution of quality," Barak tells Goldberg. "Jews know that they can land on their feet in any corner of the world. … Our young people can consciously decide to go other places [and] stay out of here by choice."

…In other words, Israeli elites want the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear program — with the potentially negative repercussions that Goldberg acknowledges — so that Israel will not experience "a dilution of quality" or "an accelerated brain drain."…

[P]reventing "dilution of quality" or bolstering Israelis’ perceptions regarding their country’s raison d’être can never give an American president a just or strategically sound cause for initiating war. And make no mistake: Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would mean war.

…Israeli elites want to preserve a regional balance of power strongly tilted in Israel’s favor and what an Israeli general described to Goldberg as "freedom of action" –the freedom to use force unilaterally, anytime, for whatever purpose Israel wants. The problem with Iranian nuclear capability — not just weapons, but capability  – is that it might begin constraining Israel’s currently unconstrained "freedom of action." In May, retired Israeli military officers, diplomats, and intelligence officials conducted a war game that assumed Iran had acquired "nuclear weapons capability." Participants subsequently told Reuters that such capability does not pose an "existential threat" to Israel — but "would blunt Israel’s military autonomy."

One may appreciate Israel’s desire to maximize its military autonomy. But, in an already conflicted region, Israel’s assertion of military hegemony is itself a significant contributor to instability and the risk of conflict. Certainly, maximizing Israel’s freedom of unilateral military initiative is not a valid rationale for the United States to start a war with Iran. Just imagine how Obama would explain such reasoning to the American people.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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19 Responses

  1. fillmorehagan
    August 13, 2010, 9:29 am

    I live in Palm Beach County, Florida which has a very substantial Jewish population.

    Just to give an example of how low the mainstream media here have sunk re: Middle East issues THE PALM BEACH POST now has a daily debate column ON THE LEFT versus ON THE RIGHT.

    Today the issue was Israel and Iran. ON THE LEFT was Zionist war monger Thomas Freidman. ON THE RIGHT was Christian Zionist warmonger George Will who thinks Netanyahu is a modern day Churchill sounding the alarm about another Hitler.

    Hard to imagine how the mainstream media could sink any lower on vital issues of war and peace.

  2. Richard Witty
    August 13, 2010, 9:30 am

    In contrast,
    I think it is NECESSARY for foreign policy advocates to hear the reasoning for and against proposed policies.

    Anything else amounts to censorship.

    Better to make a better proposal, than to seek to silence.

    I guess the headline was about Walt, Karon and Leverett, but it shifted to a bash of Goldberg.

    There are truths in Goldbergs’ comments, even if you disagree with his conclusion (he actually did NOT go that far in the article).

    An implication of an implication of an implication is a long game of telephone.

    • Psychopathic god
      August 13, 2010, 12:02 pm

      we agree, Witty: “I think it is NECESSARY for foreign policy advocates to hear the reasoning for and against proposed policies.”

      Friedman and Will do NOT provide that dialectic.

      Have you seen Atlantic’s response to the uptick in interest it has gotten due to Goldberg’s article? Atlantic will host a “debate”.

      Here are the debaters:

      You complained in an earlier thread, Witty, that there were “no influential intellectuals like Walt” who advocated for US -Iran rapprochement.
      I pointed out to you that Flynt and Hillary Leverett as well as Mark Katz from MESH have been making precisely that argument: that US-Iran rapprochement is in the BEST interests of the US, in the BEST interests of Israel, in the BEST interests of the entire region.

      Katz’s argument is dated sometime in 2008 (link to blogs.law.harvard.edu
      and the Leveretts have been honing their argument since they put their careers on the line by standing up to Stephen Hadley’s malign influence on George Bush.

      Where has Goldberg been? What moral fibre has he demonstrated? Hasn’t he been keeping up with the freshest efforts to resolve problems
      creatively and with intellectual integrity? Have you read or studied any “reasoning for and against proposals” that shake you out of your comfort zone? Why not?

      • Psychopathic god
        August 13, 2010, 12:05 pm

        hit the ‘submit’ button before listing Atlantic’s “debaters.”
        but here: the Leveretts list them for your delectation: link to raceforiran.com

  3. potsherd
    August 13, 2010, 9:36 am

    Just imagine how Obama would explain such reasoning to the American people.

    That’s simple. Obama would lie. Obama would spout a line of hypocritical blather that sounds superficially good and means nothing whatsoever. Obama would evade, as he has always evaded, the truth.

    It is not just that Israel’s influence is pushing the US into war on Iran. There is no other reason but Israeli pressure for the hysterical climate of hostility towards a nation that poses no threat to the US. Yet “the Iran threat” is on everyone’s lips, a classic example of the Big Lie that gains universal acceptance from constant repetition.

    • demize
      August 13, 2010, 1:43 pm

      And he will use his best MLK. cadence, bluster and that phony gravitas routine he trots out periodically.

  4. Oscar
    August 13, 2010, 9:56 am

    Great summary — internet killed the hasbara star. Phil, you should update this piece to include Glenn Greenwald’s excellent companion piece that demonstrates how Goldberg is willing to contradict himself on the record in his rush to send American lives from Texas, Alabama and the flyover states into harm’s way for the benefit of Greater Israel.
    link to salon.com

    • tree
      August 13, 2010, 12:08 pm

      Yes, Oscar! You beat me to it. Greenwald’s quotations from Goldberg today and in 2002 point out that Goldberg’s two statements are in direct contradiction of each other, and thus a perfect example of how propagandists function. Well worth the read.

      • silencenolonger
        August 14, 2010, 3:07 pm

        Greenwald’s article is stellar, it also references Phil efforts to compile reaction to the Goldberg piece

  5. Tuyzentfloot
    August 13, 2010, 9:59 am

    I think it was Jonathan Cook who once translated the existential threat to Israel as “the fear of becoming an ordinary middle eastern country”. Scary or what?

    • Sand
      August 13, 2010, 11:21 am

      “the fear of becoming an ordinary middle eastern country”.

      I like that…

    • Tuyzentfloot
      August 14, 2010, 3:09 am

      And if Israel would become an ordinary middle eastern country it would be the end of the zionist utopia. In other words the destruction of the jewish state. The annihilation of the jewish state. The trick I’m using here is that the listener hears the central, prototypical meaning of the word – which is very violent – while I am not lying because I’m using an excentric meaning of the word. If Israeli Arabs want a state of all its citizens then they want the destruction of the jewish state….

    • Tuyzentfloot
      August 14, 2010, 3:11 am

      Has anyone ever described Israel as a Faustian deal?

  6. demize
    August 13, 2010, 1:40 pm

    Corporal Punishment returns, Dun duh duh! He is like a fungus, he’ll disappear for a while but you can’t get rid of him.

  7. cogit8
    August 14, 2010, 2:44 am

    Goldberg: ““The real threat to Zionism is the dilution of quality,” he said. “Jews know that they can land on their feet in any corner of the world. The real test for us is to make Israel such an attractive place, such a cutting-edge place in human society, education, culture, science, quality of life, that even American Jewish young people want to come here.” This vision is threatened by Iran and its proxies, Barak said. “Our young people can consciously decide to go other places,” if they dislike living under the threat of nuclear attack. “Our best youngsters could stay out of here by choice.”

    And how does Ehud Barack intend to do this (to make Israel such an attractive place, such a cutting-edge place)? Why, by bombing Iran, igniting the whole middle east, and welcoming hundreds of incoming rockets on Israeli cities every day. EB might not remember those weaker rockets of the summer of 2006 that brought Israel to a standstill, so much so that Israel uncharacteristically had to withdraw from Lebanon and accept a negotiated truce.

    The astounding stupidity of inviting thousands of rockets on Israeli cities in order to better attract young Jews!
    . . . ranks up there with “they’ll welcome invaders with flowers”, “mission accomplished”, “op infinite justice”, and “bring it on”.

  8. Rowan
    August 14, 2010, 7:22 am

    I’m interested in the underlying debate about whether Israeli regional war strategy is really subordinate to US regional war strategy or not. Michel Chossudovsky says it is:

    There has been much debate regarding the role of Israel in initiating an attack against Iran. Israel is part of a military alliance. Tel Aviv is not a prime mover. It does not have a separate and distinct military agenda. Israel is integrated into the “war plan for major combat operations” against Iran formulated in 2006 by STRATCOM. In the context of large-scale military operations, an uncoordinated unilateral military action by one coalition partner, namely Israel, is from a military and strategic point almost an impossibility. Israel is a de facto member of NATO. Any action by Israel would require a “green light” from Washington…

    Israel’s X-band radar system established in early 2009 with US technical support has “integrated Israel’s missile defenses with the US global missile [space-based] detection network, which includes satellites, Aegis ships on the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and land-based Patriot radars and interceptors.” What this means is that Washington ultimately calls the shots. The US rather than Israel controls the air defense system. Pentagon spokesman Morrell said, “This is and will remain a US radar system. So this is not something we are giving or selling to the Israelis and it is something that will likely require US personnel on-site to operate.” The US military oversees Israel’s Air Defense system, which is integrated into the Pentagon’s global system. In other words, Israel cannot launch a war against Iran without Washington’s consent.

    link to globalresearch.ca

    • Tuyzentfloot
      August 16, 2010, 4:15 am

      I would think that the radar work is a way to achieve more control over Israel’s actions. It doesn’t mean Israel is subordinate to the US.

      I have this hypothesis that the threat of war with Iran is bluff in Israel, in order to pressure the US to contain Iran, but it’s for real for the pro Israel lobby and the neocons in the US.

  9. Rowan
    August 14, 2010, 7:26 am

    Related to this; Goldberg makes one claim I find hard to believe:

    CENTCOM, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. According to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.

  10. Les
    August 14, 2010, 9:38 am

    His experience as a corporal in the IDF qualifies him to be a spokesperson for/in the US media.

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